Kakiyan: Soaring high amidst the skies

It all started with his compilation of The Last Kingdom of Sinhalay, which from the get-go was subject to abrupt dismissal. To him that wasn’t the end, as he authored Sam’s Story, which won him the Gratiaen Prize.

People continuously threw the mundane “when are you publishing your next book?” questions at him. “I don’t have to write it, I already have it,” he replied, fondly referring to The Last Kingdom of Sinhalay which won him the State Literary Award.

Capt. Elmo Jayawardena, a vibrant personality, witty and realistic, let us in on his story. And here’s what he had to say.

You are described as a person who has embarked on a variety of interests, one being aviation. Could you shed some light on this particular aspect?

I drove airplanes during my adult life. I worked for Air Ceylon, Air Lanka, and Singapore Airlines. Afterwards, I trained pilots for 10 years. Aviation aside, I started a humanitarian organisation called Candle Aid Sri Lanka which works towards the eradication of poverty.

Your newest creation Kakiyan was launched quite recently at an elegant affair; could you give us a brief insight as to its story?
Basically, Kakiyan is a story of a crow, born in the Jacaranda Condominium. His mother is Alice crow, his father is Stanley crow, and he has a brother called Rodney and a sister called Lucy.

The book stands totally against animal cruelty. We talk about human rights notwithstanding the rights of other beings that wander our planet. So the book seeks to address these issues.

Needless to say, there’s a variety of birds/animals you could have selected to depict in your story, yet you opted for crows. What’s your reasoning behind this unusual yet unique selection?
Crows are misunderstood and often neglected; they’re the underdogs of the bird world.

Is there anything of particular importance you’d wish for your readers to extract?
The book was written in a manner which could be read by anyone, including children. In my organisation, I work with poor people. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Most children who come from affluent families have a tendency to stress over very minor issues, so I wish, through my book, to encourage children to be kinder than they are. Kinder to animals, and even the people they meet on a day-to-day basis, for them to understand that they’re privileged and blessed, and that they should be thankful for it.

Do you have any words of advice to writers newly entering the field?
Well, many people have ideas to write books. Years go by, yet they still fail to get around to it. The most common question they raise is: “Who’s going to read it?” and the second is: “Who’s going to publish it?”, when, in fact, the questions should be the other way around.
You must ideally write the book first. You don’t know who’s going to read it, nor do you know whether they’re going to appreciate what you write. But the only thing you will know is the satisfaction you feel in the end. In writing, the enjoyment is in the journey, and not in the destination.

Not only are you a highly acclaimed writer, but you’re also a passionate humanitarian. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past? And are there any upcoming ones?
As I said before, Candle Aid is a humanitarian organisation. Here, our primary project entails an education sponsorship programme where we help students from low income families towards their education.

Additionally, we provide dry rations to poor families and grant relief for cancer patients by providing them with some of their basic needs of food, nutrition, and medicine. In the past, we’ve completed a number of projects, including disaster relief in 2017, Secret Santa events, a tsunami relief project, and many more.



By Chenelle Fernando

Photos Pradeep Dambarage